An afternoon visit to the local ice cream shop is a pleasure hard to beat. But the old struggle to choose between chocolate and vanilla is a thing of the past: a renaissance in wild ice cream flavor innovation means we’ve got to pick among options like red velvet cupcake, honey lavender, Bangkok peanut, and plum sake sorbet (not to mention the occasional scoop of crawfish or wasabi). These 15 American ice cream shops are worth seeking out for their amazing flavors, delectable toppings, and innovative approach to our favorite summer treat.
This Seattle shop sees its crop-to-cone philosophy as the key to creating exceptional ice cream, from simple vanilla to Thai iced tea. Their seasonal flagship cheddar ice cream, for instance, emerged out of a partnership with Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, whose award-winning cheddar flavors this intriguing treat.
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream
917 E. Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98122
The Portland food scene is saturated with fresh ideas, and Salt & Straw is no exception to the trend. Arbequina olive oil and cinnamon snicker doodle are just a few of the flavors that regularly tempt shopgoers, while a collaboration with
Aviary‘s chefs produces limited edition gems like toasted coconut ice cream with cracked sesame toffee and boysenberry ginger jam.
Salt & Straw
2035 NE Alberta Street
Portland, OR 97211
When Ciao Bella founder Jon Snyder opened Il Laboratorio de Gelato in 2002, nobody doubted that his product would be top-notch. But with a list of more than 200 unique flavors — peppercorn, wasabi, and Guinness, to name just a few — this iconic gelato laboratory has become a cherished supplier to restaurants and individuals alike.
Il Laboratorio de Gelato
188 Ludlow Street
New York, NY 10002
Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour
What really sets Itgen’s apart is its homemade ice cream—and homemade whipped cream, hot fudge, syrups, marshmallow sauce, and wet nuts (walnuts in sticky syrup). If it’s topping a sundae, banana split, or Belgian waffle, it’s made on the premises to scrumptious effect.
Read more about Itgen’s ice cream and toppings » Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour
2211 Rockaway Avenue
Valley Stream, New York 11580
We’ve waxed rhapsodic about
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams before, and with good reason. Known for her wildly inventive flavors like Beet Ice Cream with Mascarpone, Orange Zest, and Poppy Seeds, as well as punched-up versions of old favorites like The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World, Jeni’s ice creams are luscious, smooth and creamy, and irresistible.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
59 Spruce Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Beloved in Atlanta since opening in 2008, Morelli’s menu strikes a balance between straightforward gourmet and whimsical imagination. Flavors like Amarena Cherry, Avocado, and Krispy Kreamier (a donut ice cream in a fresh chocolate-dip waffle cone) make regular appearances.
Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream
749 Moreland Ave SE, #B102
Atlanta, GA 30316
Owners Katrina and Carmelo merge their artisanal gelato expertise with modernist creativity at this famed New Orleans shop. Their collaboration has yielded innovative flavors like honey sesame goat’s milk, saffron rosewater, and yes, even a jaw-dropping crawfish ice cream.
La Divina Gelateria
3005 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
This Cambridge shop gets more than a little inspiration from its neighboring sister store, Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods. With so many unusual and flavorful ingredients on hand, it’s no wonder they keep global favorites like azuki bean and kulfi in regular rotation.
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream
1255 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02139-1338
With wildly popular flavors like salted caramel, balsamic strawberry, and honey lavender, Bi-Rite has made a name for itself as one of San Francisco’s first ice cream shops to focus on local and organic ingredients. Not only is their ice cream handmade, but their toppings are mostly prepared on-site, too.
3692 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
This tiny waterfront shop is packed with eager ice cream lovers throughout the summer who wait patiently for loaded flavors like Mint Summer’s Night Dream, Peachy Peach, and Pumpkin Pie.
Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream
49 Ceres Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Don’t be fooled by the name–Margie’s Fine Candies is as focused on ice cream as it is on chocolates. After 90 years of business, this shop is a Chicago institution, known for some of the most inspired and lavish sundaes in the industry (featuring their homemade candy and toppings, of course).
1960 N. Western
Chicago, IL 60647
For a relative newcomer to the Denver scene, Sweet Action has scooped up more than a few awards for its conceptual menu and premium quality desserts. Customers go especially wild for Stranahan’s Whiskey Brittle, a flavor that incorporates Colorado whiskey distilled just a mile from the shop itself.
Sweet Action Ice Cream
Denver, Colorado 80203
International chef-cum-chocolatier Christopher Elbow has most recently added ice cream to his list of successful ventures. His culinary background shines through in signature creations like Goat Cheese and Wildflower Honey– just two of the flavors that have Kansas City head-over-heels in love.
Glace Artisan Ice Cream
4960 Main St
Kansas City, MO 64112
With a focus on integrating novel ingredient combinations into single flavors, Moorenko’s is a local treasure. Located just outside Washington, D.C., this shop serves up intriguing scoops like Cherries with the Works (Bordeaux cherries, semi-sweet chocolate flakes, and toasted pignolis) and Orange Chocolate Chip.
Moorenko’s Ice Cream Cafe
8030b Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Frozen Treat Inspiration
For more inspiration on making delicious frozen treats at home:
See 25 Ice Cream and Gelato Recipes » See 6 Low-Tech Ways to Make Ice Cream »
See Paletas: Mexican Ice Pops »